F1 pitstops are one of the exciting and adrenaline filled parts of Formula One racing and many people dream of being part of the crew that changes tyres during the race. This aspect of the team is often misunderstood however so this post aims to explain a little more about a team’s pitcrew.

Practice makes perfect

It now takes less than 3 seconds to change all four wheels and tyres on a modern F1 car. You can’t do a lot in 3 seconds. Blink and you might miss it.

Pitstops are probably the most visually impressive part of grand prix racing and are something that separates F1 teams members from mere mortals. At least that is what many people think…

The truth is that the pit crew are actually a bunch of ordinary guys (or girls, but I’m not aware of any female tyre changers at the moment). Contrary to what many people think, there is no such job as an F1 tyre changer or pit crew, the guys that do it all have normal jobs within the race team and the pitstops are just a small part of what they do in their day to day set of tasks.

The majority of the guys who make up the pitcrew are the car’s mechanics, but the crew may also include truck drivers and engine fitters. The role is essentially open to anyone on the race team who does not have a critical role once the race is underway and shows a talent for it. The only fixed role is that of the chief mechanic will normally be ‘lollipop man’, ie he will oversee each stop from the front and then controls the release of the car after the stop is safely completed. This job is still critical even with the evolution of automatic release and traffic lights.

The remaining crew members are then selected based on their physical attributed, jack men tend to be tall and week built as requires physical strength to lift the car. Wheel gunners themselves tend to be lighter and more agile but it’s hard to convey on TV how violent the pneumatic rattle guns can be, it’s still a very physical part of the job.

Man and machine

The machinery of each team is highly developed to minimise the pitstop time. The wheel, the nuts, the axles, wheel guns and even the brake ducts are all designed to make wheel on and off actions as quick and simple as possible. Regular pitstop practice then allows each team member to perfect his/her movements and make the entire process second nature come race day. It should not require any thought.

Most teams will practice equipment failure, cross threads or ‘man down’ drills (if the driver misses his marks!) as well as routine stops so that everybody knows what to do when there is a problem and the delay to the car is minimised. There is normally a designated ‘pit stop’ car (typically a previous year’s chassis) which is used for practice and can be modified for any development ideas that might need trialling. Video is now commonly used to post analyse each stop and see which areas might need improving. It’s a continuous process.

How do I get on the team?

As I mentioned above, you’ll never see a job advert asking for a pit crew member. You can’t just be a wheel changer on an F1 team. To get involved you’ll need to be already on the race team as a mechanic or a truckie as your normal day job and then you’ll get the chance to be involved. This is where many people get confused. You have to take the rough with the smooth.

It’s not a job for the faint hearted either! Whilst the banning of refuelling has drastically reduced the chances of a pitlane inferno pitcrew members are taking great risks in their jobs. I don’t think any of us would want to be involved in something like this which occured during a pitstop in 1994 with the Benetton team. Remind yourself that these are real people with families on ordinary salaries.

Pitlane speed limits are still up there with motorway travel and it takes a brave man to walk out and stand in front of a car braking from over 60mph. One thing is for sure though, anyone who has ever served as a F1 pit crew member will never forget it and the immense adrenaline buzz it must bring.

Keep in touch

If you are interested in a career in Formula 1 or want to learn more about how you can get involved, take a look through my list of frequently asked questions or read through some of my other recent posts. Keep checking my blog for new articles or use the follow form on the home page to be kept up to date by email. I hope to shortly post a series of job role descriptions, detailing what the day to day duties of a designer, aerodynamicist, data engineer and many other people who make up an F1 team really are. If there is something specific you want to know, add a comment to this post and I’ll make sure that I get back to you with an answer.

You can also follow me on Twitter @Work_in_F1.


  1. Thanks for getting back so quickly, that would be fine so feel free to use it.

    You’ve really got me thinking, and I’m very split; could you give me a further insight into what the possible roles of an F1 engineer could be? I know its a very broad term, so thats why I’ve been more tempted by the mechanic role, as I know what it involves and the lack of hours spent in front of computers and monitors appeals to me.

    Thanks again.


  2. In addition to Oxford Brookes you will find many graduates from Cranfield University working in motorsport. Again the majority are engineers as opposed to F1 mechanics. Take a look at http://www.motorsport.cranfield.ac.uk

  3. Hello , i am interested on becoming a volunteer for any F1 team , i am a A&P ( airframe and powerplant ) in short words a jet mechanic , also worked on high performance vehicles like rolex 24 hours cars , to anyone on a F1 team please contact me , per4mancedesign@gmail.com

    S. Rodriguez
  4. Very interesting read. Personally, I am very much impressed at the finesse and agility of the pit crew. To turn around the car in 2.05 seconds (Mark Webber’s pitstop at the 2013 Malaysian GP) would need some serious practice and machinery optimisation. Not to mention the amount of risk involved in being a member of the pit crew..


  5. I’d just like to start off by saying thank you for this brilliant website. It’s so hard to find useful and credible advice about the Motorsports industry on the Internet, so thanks a lot!

    I’m very determined to become an F1 Mechanic. I’ve fully researched the role, and am very driven to fulfil my dream of becoming part of an F1 pit crew. I’ve been taking a lot of steps to gain experience, and make me more employable; I’ve bought a scrap car to learn more about mechanics, I’m a key member of my school’s engineering club, I’m going on a Motorsports engineering course in July and I’m trying to get a job in a garage this summer.

    Although its a good few years off yet, I’ve been thinking about university and routes to take; would it be better to go on a course like the Motorsports engineering one at Oxford Brookes (http://www.brookes.ac.uk/studying-at-brookes/courses/undergraduate/2013/motorsport-engineering-beng-or-meng/) or to work up the ladder of Motorsport and get to F1 that way?

    I’d really appreciate your advice on this, and anything else I could be doing to improve my chances of becoming an F1 mechanic. And again, thanks a lot for this very useful site!


    1. Hi Joe

      Thanks for the comment and the great feedback – really appreciate it.

      I actually really like what you’ve said here – sounds like you are really doing everything you can to learn about mechanics and racing. I’m impressed and I am sure that F1 teams would be too. This is exactly what you need to be doing. I might even copy your comment into a post at some point to use as an example to others if thats ok ?

      Oxford Brookes courses are very good from what I understand. They certainly have some great links to F1 teams for work placements and there are lots of Brookes graduates working in F1 already (including one of my own guys). Most people who do that course end up as engineers or technicians, not so many as mechanics. You don’t need a degree to be a mechanic BUT you do need lots of practical experience. It just depends on exactly what it is you wanted to do.

      Best of luck with it all – just keep doing what you are doing and I am sure that there will be something for you at the end of it.


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